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Wife Of Murdered Iranian Writer Describes Years Long Struggle With Iranian Authorities

Iran --Writer Majid Sharif with his son Pouya-undated
Iran --Writer Majid Sharif with his son Pouya-undated

"The tragedy of that day was not just receiving the news of Majid's death, but relaying it to my fifteen-year-old son, and the enigma that sparkled in his eyes. I saw him drowning in a big question, 'Why?' This is the suffering that will not be over until the end of my life."

Speaking to Radio Farda, Mahshid Sharif described her son Pouya's reaction to the abduction and murder of her husband, Majid Sharif, a writer and translator. Iranian Intelligence Ministry agents kidnapped and murdered Majid Sharif in 1998, two and a half years after he returned to Iran from studying abroad.

On November 19, 1998, Majid left his mother's house in the Tehran neighborhood of Yousef Abad. Six days later, his family identified his dead body at the morgue.

The Ministry of Intelligence has not admitted to killing Majid, with Mahshid telling Radio Farda that "the cause of Majid's death was officially announced as 'unknown,'" and when the family insisted on finding out the cause of Majid's death, they faced significant obstacles, with the Ministry refusing to accept the family's lawsuit. Iranian officials' insistence on ignoring the murder has continually baffled the Sharif family and the Iranian intellectual community alike.

"In a simplistic way, one might say that this was just a plot concocted alongside the Islamic Republic's other conspiracies," Mahshid said. "Still, after all these years, the dimensions of the case [are not clear]. Why they claimed responsibility for four murders but, in a particularly hostile manner, refused to accept their involvement in three other murders [of Majid Sharif, as well as Hamid Hajizadeh and his nine-year-old son, Karoun] which happened at the same time."

On the evening of November 25, 1998, an anonymous voice informed Mahshid of the horrific news about Majid's murder, which she had to share with her fifteen-year-old son. Mahshid and Pouya were living in Sweden at the time.

"They contacted me on the evening of November 25. I didn't recognize the voice on the other end of the line. He told me about Majid's death. About ten or fifteen minutes later, Majid's family contacted me.

"My first reaction was that I wanted to be In Iran in those days and those hours," Mahshid said. "I applied for a passport. Under a blatant false excuse, they rejected my application. However, the tragedy of that day was not just receiving the news of Majid's death, but relaying it to my fifteen-year-old son, Pouya."

Living all his life outside Iran, in Sweden, Pouya puzzled over the news of his father's death.

Mahshid remembers, "As Pouya gradually grew up, he became familiar with Iran's specific issues. Although he chose another way of life for himself. Today, I can say he is one of the unique people working in Sweden in the fields of artificial intelligence."

A year after Majid Sharif's murder, Mahshid's Iranian passport was given to her, and she arrived in Iran on the first anniversary of her husband's murder.

"Pouya was not with me," she said. "I didn't want him with me, because he was under eighteen and I had no idea what could happen to him. In my conversations with Majid's family and his parents, they insisted on keeping Pouya safe. Majid's father was 83 years old, and Majid's mother eighty-one when he was killed. I saw a certain fear in them that something might happen to Pouya. They earnestly insisted on keeping Pouya safe. However, when Poya turned eighteen, he traveled to Tehran to nominate Shirin Ebadi [later, a Nobel laureate] to represent the family in Majid's legal case."

"Pouya was struggling with a bizarre dilemma," she added. "Why did his father who had the highest academic education in two different fields of physics and humanities with the highest degrees in Universities of Iran, France, and the United States, why did his father who was fluent in different languages and had the power to research, think, and had enthusiasm and flexibility, return to Iran?" Mahshid Sharif says.

According to Mahshid, "Majid had come to the point that the political mission he had decided for himself was deadlocked abroad. I mean, he did not see any dynamics or changes in the movement he had begun. Since he was a creative seeker, he had concluded in his contemplation that he was willing to return to Iran and fight differently and in a distinctive style."

Iran -- Majid Sharif and his wife Mahshid Sharif
Iran -- Majid Sharif and his wife Mahshid Sharif

Being with the people cost Majid his life, with Majid experiencing frequent challenges upon his return to Iran.

"Since his return, he was summoned repeatedly and interrogated at a place called the Esteqlal Hotel. His writings were repeatedly banned to the extent that he was forced to resign from writing and translating. He made fewer calls to us, which continued to be less than before. His vague words on the phone for me, who knew him well, indicated an unusual situation. I knew that he was not in a normal situation. Until that tragedy occurred."

A historian and founder of the Institute for Political Studies and Research in Iran, Abdollah Shahbazi, shared in an essay, "Showing fake warrants, [intelligence agents] stopped [Majid Sharif] as a drug suspect. They pushed him into a taxi and drove to a parking lot in Tehran's Yousef Abad neighborhood. There, they injected potash under his big toe's nail."

One of the prime defenders in the Chain Murders case, Mehrdad Alikhani, testified, "We had changed the taxi's plate number."

In addition to Alikhani, five others participated in the operation; one was driving, and two followed the taxi in another car. Majid's body was taken to the vicinity of his house and thrown on the sidewalk. The medical examiner's department determined the cause of death as cardiac arrest.

"What I think is very, very important, and I highlight it every year is the justice movement," Mahshid said, adding, "If at the first years after the political Chain Murders only the victims' families and a thin layer of the society sought justice, today far more people are demanding justice, and that makes us all incredibly happy. The fact that the popular justice-seeking movement has been able to maintain its independence over the years and bring other free hearts and consciences together is heartwarming."

Books written or translated by Majid Sharif include "Rebirth of True Islam," "Islam Minus Democracy," "Cultural Alienation", Roger Garoudi's "History of an Apostasy, Founding Myths of Israeli Politics," "Prophet" by Gibran Khalil Gibran, "Challenges and Power" by Pierre Ensar, "The History of an Apostasy," and "The Necessity of Revising of Political Campaign and Presenting Democratic Entities."